If you haven’t heard of Carl Lentz, you need to go look him up. He started a little church up in New York City under the Hillsong brand and has since seen over 80,000 people get saved in just 4 years! I love this guy and what God is doing through him and his ministry.
I had the privilege of listening to him speak recently and he shared an awesome message about grace (who doesn’t love a message about the awesomeness of God’s grace?). But one thing stood out to me that I wanted to share: He said that, as Christians, the grace that God has towards us should become more and more significant and more and more amazing the longer that we’re Christians. As we grow and mature as believers, we should recognize our need for God’s grace more every single day.
Unfortunately, a lot of times the exact opposite happens: the longer many people are Christians, the more judgmental they become of those outside the church, the more self-righteous some of them become, and some even begin to get offended when God’s grace is suggested to apply to some of those people – the sinners. This is not God’s intent – Paul reminds us that we were just like them at one time as well! And we still aren’t perfect but are on a path towards righteousness that was sparked and started by God, that is empowered by God, and will be completed by God! There is no room in there for self-righteousness and arrogance.
Carl Lentz pointed something out that I just thought was awesome: he said that this model – growing in our recognition of our need for God’s grace as we mature as Christians – was demonstrated in the writings of Paul in terms of the way that he viewed himself as time went on. Early in his ministry, in 1 Corinthians 15:9, he said “I am the least of the apostles…” Not bad. Kinda humble, right? But let’s face it, there were only twelve apostles! And to most of us, being the least of those is not really that big of a deal. It’s kind of like saying, you know “I’m the worst football player on the Super bowl winning team” – you’re still pretty darned good. Nevertheless, Paul knew that he wasn’t great.
But as time went on, Paul’s perspective evolved, and later, in Ephesians 3:8, he says “I am the least of all of God’s people…” Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. “God’s people” includes all the Jews and Christians around the globe – it’s a pretty significant statement to say that I’m the worst of all of them. Paul is definitely growing in humility as his ministry continues.
But as Paul grew as a Christian, his self-righteousness continued to shrink even further – the longer he served Jesus, the more he understood that it was all about Him and not at all about himself; the longer he served Jesus, the more he understood that there was absolutely nothing he could have done to save himself; the longer he served Jesus, the more he understood that in his own flesh, he was pure evil. And towards the end of his ministry, in 1 Timothy 1:15, he said “I am the worst” sinner in the entire world. Wow! Paul considers himself not only “not better” than anyone else, but he actually considered himself worse than everyone else. We can take a page from Paul’s lesson’s learned here.
Christians are not better than any other person on the planet – we’ve simply accepted the free gift that God has offered to the entire world. Far be it for us to judge others for not having gotten there yet. Instead of judging, we need to show grace and love and mercy to those who are simply where we used to be, even if their particular sin looks different from ours. The truth is we’re all in the same boat together: we all need more grace from God, so let’s band together in this boat and pull others in with us with us. Show some grace. God bless.